Welcome to 'Lost in the Myths of History'

It often seems that many prominent people of the past are wronged by often-repeated descriptions, which in time are taken as truth. The same is also true of events, which are frequently presented in a particular way when there might be many alternative viewpoints. This blog is intended to present a different perspective on those who have often been lost in the myths of history.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Marie-Antoinette the Mother

In October of 1793, when on trial for her life, Marie-Antoinette was accused by the revolutionary tribunal of sexually abusing her eight-year-old son. When the queen failed to answer, she was badgered for a response. She rose to her feet and faced the crowded courtroom, saying: Si je n'ai répondu, c'est que la nature se refuse à répondre à une pareille inculpation faite à une mère. J'en appelles à toutes celles qui peuvent se trouver ici. "If I do not respond, it is because nature refuses to answer such a charge made to a mother. I appeal to all the mothers who are here!" The spectators, especially the women, applauded the queen and hissed at the revolutionaries, who had overplayed their hand. (see Jean Chalon's Chère Marie-Antoinette)

The infamous charge elicited disgust even from those deeply committed to the Revolution. Whatever else her faults may have been, Marie-Antoinette was a devoted mother. As Maxime de la Rocheterie wrote in his biography of the queen: "There is not a letter to Marie-Antoinette's friends, not a letter to her brothers, which does not abound in details of the health and a thousand incidents in the life of her dear little ones. She goes to see them at every hour of the day and night...."

To the governess Madame de Tourzel she gave detailed instructions concerning the care of each of her children, saying:
I have always accustomed my children to have great confidence in me, and, when they have done wrong, to tell me themselves; and then, when I scold them, this enables me to appear pained and afflicted rather than angry. I have accustomed them to regard 'yes' or 'no' once uttered by me as irrevocable, but I always give them reasons for my decisions, suitable to their ages.... (from The Life of Marie Antoinette by Charles Duke Yonge)
According to Nesta Webster, Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI decided early in the Revolution never to allow themselves to be separated from their two surviving children. However, after the king's death, little Louis-Charles was taken away from his mother in August 1793 and infamously brutalized by his captors. In the fall of the year, the queen was removed from the Temple prison to the Conciergerie, away from her fifteen-year-old daughter Madame Royale, whom she never saw again. When interrogated in prison as to whom she regarded as her enemies, the queen replied: "My enemies are all those who would bring harm to my children."

In her last letter she wrote to her sister-in-law: "I feel profound sorrow in leaving my poor children: you know that I only lived for them and for you, my good and tender sister....My God, how heart-rending it is to leave them forever! Farewell! farewell!"

Likewise, she is quoted as saying: "I was a queen, and you took away my crown, a wife, and you killed my husband, a mother, and you took my children away from me. All I have left is my blood. Take it. But do not make me suffer long."


Matterhorn said...

Thank you for this!

I was surprised, reading the Coursacs, at one point, to see that they even tried to deny her devotion as a mother, as if it were all a ploy for sympathy.

Val said...

Thank you for the post, Elena Maria! It is so refreshing to see the old Marie Antionette myths dispelled here. After reading just a small amount of her life, it's easy to see her devotion to her children...

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Matterhorn, the Coursacs do not have much good to say about the Queen. Everything for them is Louis.

Thank you very much, Val.

Christina said...

Thank you for a beautiful post! It is utterly heart-breaking to read the account of Marie Antoinette hearing her little boy crying in another cell...and even more so to read of the charges levelled against her. The revolutionaries really knew how to hurt a person, didn't they? What horrible minds they must have had!!